Speed Reading Test Review (How Fast Can YOU Read?)

December 22, 2015 books, miscellaneous 15

I used to think I’m a fast reader.

In class, I was always among the first to finish a text. I read constantly at home, so it made sense that I’d be a speedy reader, right? Then, a couple of years ago, I was rudely awakened when I read the same text as someone else and they finished before I was done with the first quarter. A little later, I stumbled upon the Staples Speed Reading Test, and it confirmed my deepest fears: I’m a slow reader. DUN DUN DUN. I’d excuse myself by saying that English isn’t my mother tongue, but I read more in English than in German these days, so …I can’t.

For no particular reason at all, I decided to write a review of some of the speed reading tests my quick Google search yielded. It’s 1 am. I should probably go to bed.

The Staples Reading Test

ereader test
Source: Staples eReader Department

As mentioned, this was the one that started it all. I have no idea how many words I got the first time, but I just did it, and I got 349 words per minute, which, according to Staples, is at around the level of an 11th grade student. Then again, 11th grade students apparently read faster than the average adult (??), so at least I’m faster than the average adult. I like their design and they show you how long it would take you to read certain books and how often you’d need to recharge your ereader, which is interesting.

The text you read is from a classic and they ask three comprehension questions afterwards. I keep getting Wells’s The War of the Worlds, but you can switch it to Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland or The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. I switched to Alice in Wonderland, because I can’t with Wells, and I actually read faster, which makes sense, because the writing is easier to comprehend as there aren’t places and people I’m not familiar with, so my brain doesn’t go WHAT. It now says I’m reading 400 words per minute, so I’m somewhere between 11th grader and average college student and 60% faster than the average adult. Go me. I also answered 3 out of 3 comprehension questions right, which I didn’t when I read Wells. Maybe I’ll catch up to the other college students if I keep practising.

The Wall Street Journal Reading Test

This Wall Street Journal Test gives you a random excerpt from a Wall Street Journal article. The first time I did it, I got a random text about marathons I couldn’t have cared less about and got 208 words per minute with 2 out of 3 comprehension questions answered correctly, which puts me somewhere between a fifth grader and average speed. The second time I got a text about conference calls in the business world that interested me slightly more, so I got 272 words per minute with all comprehension questions answered correctly. I am now reading at an average level. Amazing, how fast you can improve.

I then tried one of their speed reading tips, which was to pretend that there’s a line going down the middle of the text and to use your periphal vision to see how many words you catch instead of moving your eyes from side to side. Quite frankly, I found this an entirely stupid tip, as I could not comprehend any words that way, so I hit the Done button early and got a score of 812 words per minute. Astonishing. I still answered 2 out of 3 comprehension questions correctly, but I wouldn’t recommend my method for pop quiz questions. I also thought it was stupid that there were speed reading tips to begin with, because they expressly said not to skim, but then I realized that was the Staples test, so I tried again, but skimmed this time. I got a text about the ideal way to melt cheese and 460 words per minute with 2 out of 3 questions answered correctly (though that may just be my innate knowledge about cheese).

My Read Speed Test

The test on My Read Speed is different from the other two in several ways. Firstly, you can choose what you want to read from a list of classics. I chose Emma, because I haven’t read it before but heard good things. Secondly, you can adjust the size of font and spacing, so I made the font a little bigger and decreased space between the lines. Thirdly, this messed everything up. I’m not sure if it’s because I made adjustments or whether it’s a general flaw, but in the text spaces between the words were missing so “happy elephant” would become “happyelephant”. It was still doable, but obviously this made reading a little harder and in the end I got 256 words per minute. As opposed to the other tests, this one doesn’t presume to tell you where you stand in comparison to others with that speed, but it does show you how long it would take you to read other books.

Thoughts on Speed Reading Tests

While this is all very interesting in terms of procrastinatial entertainment, I do see quite a few problems with these tests. We haven’t had a list in a bit, so here you go.

  • Where do these tests get their data for average reading speed? They all had different ranking systems, so the classification varied
  • As my results in the first two tests showed, my word count per minute changes considerably depending on writing style and my level of interest in the text. I was far slower reading the Wells text than the Alice in Wonderland text, because I felt like I was being thrust into a completely unfamiliar world with no context whatsoever and I didn’t know or care about any of it, whereas Alice in Wonderland was familiar and easier. The same happened with the different articles in the second text, and then of course there’s the difference between non-fiction and fiction as well
  • I read much faster when I’m engrossed in a story as opposed to when I read the first page of a book and don’t know anything about it yet
  • There’s also the difference between computer screen, books, Kindles, phones etc.
  • Sometimes you can read the first sentence of each paragraph and still get the gist (a loooot of academic essays), or skip entire introductions to get to what you want to know (a looooot of online advice articles), whereas with books I almost never skim, because it’s not just about retaining information
  • You know that it’s a test. The Staples test specifically asked not to skim, so I didn’t, but you’re still always aware that it’s a test, so that can be either distracting or cause you to skim after all

In conclusion, I’d say I’m in the average to slightly above average range (which is better than slow, I guess), but it heavily depends on my level of involvement with a text. This is absolutely no surprise to me, because my elementary school report already announced to the world that “Vlora finished her assignments faster when it meant she didn’t have to do them at home later”. If you’re interested, this Forbes article asks Do You Read Fast Enough to Be Successful? and it’s more interesting than the clickbait-y title suggests.

Did you take any of the tests? How did you fare? Do you think there’s any value in them? Is your reading speed important to you?

15 Responses to “Speed Reading Test Review (How Fast Can YOU Read?)”

  1. Ebony @ LifeAsEden

    I actually love taking these tests hahaha, it’s a weird thing to enjoy, I think. I can never remember my results! I’ve always been a fast reader to other people, but I think the tests usually say I’m average, maybe a little above? I’m not sure…I think it depends on my mood/tiredness and the text and things like that…here’s my results from the tests you reviewed!

    Staples: 234 wpm (6% lower than average).

    Wall Street Journal: 299 wpm (above average).

    My Read Speed: 279 wpm.

    I don’t think reading speed tests are all that accurate, though they are still fun haha. I’m going to continue saying that I’m a slightly above average reader as as you said, there’s a lot of variables that come into play.
    Ebony @ LifeAsEden recently posted…Sister’s Graduation, First Audiobook & New YouTube VideosMy Profile

    • Vlora


      Me too! I don’t know what is about survey and tests… they make the geek in me come out. :D I don’t think they’re very accurate either, but I kind of treat them the same way I treat horoscopes: fun to read, but I don’t really believe in it.
      Vlora recently posted…Shoulderpads and InterventionsMy Profile

  2. Cait @ Paper Fury

    I have taken the tests before but I can’t remember what score I got. xD I KNOW IT WAS FAST. Mwahaha. I am a speedy reader…although not as fast as people assume, because I read a lot because I spend a lot of time reading, not being I’m mega-fast. (Although I always beat my kindle’s recommended reading time!) And I actually do that thing where you read down the centre of the page….if the book is boring. ;) If it’s a good book, I WANT TO DEVOUR EVERY WORD PROPERLY. *nods*
    Cait @ Paper Fury recently posted…2015 End of Year Survey ~ Plus Shrieking Because I Mildly Love Books, Okay??!My Profile

  3. Valerie

    So I did do the speed reading tests because I always wanted to know how I read! At first I was like TEST and I basically skimmed (whoops). I also did that the second time with the Alice in Wonderland story and got like 800 words per minute? But I also answered the question based on my familiarity of the story, and not what I actually gathered from my reading. So I was like, wait Val, I should probably measure how I really read. And that’s when I got 535 words per minute, which is pretty accurate when I’m not skimming a boring book!

    I didn’t do the other tests, but I think it’s important for some to realize that the faster you read, the less you take in (at least this applies to me! I feel like I am always confused about everything because I skim some parts because I want to get to the end!) I also think that the faster you read doesn’t make you any smarter than anyone else! Maybe more efficient? I also read more faster and smoothly when I’m engrossed in a story!

    Awesome and super interesting post Vlora!
    Valerie recently posted…Top Ten Tuesday #80My Profile

    • Vlora


      That’s really fast! Yeah, I might also have answered some of the Alice in Wonderland questions based on familiarity to be honest. I definitely take in much less when I try to read fast. I should probably do it more often when I struggle to get through a book, but don’t want to DNF it quite yet, but somehow I always feel guilty when I do it! Not sure why, but probably for the same reason I need to read series in order. :D
      Vlora recently posted…Shoulderpads and InterventionsMy Profile

  4. Shannon @ It Starts At Midnight

    So I took the WSJ one, and got 400 and 3/3 on an article about men’s dress shirts. Why is that even an article, I ask? I got mad that I was too close to average for my liking. Onto the next! Okay, I got 707 on the ReadSpeed one. That is clearly insane, no one could do that! Although… it says I can read a 328 page book in 4 hours, and that is definitely accurate. I can read about 100 pages an hour, generally. This is what the Staples one said (I got all 3 questions): “You read 578 words per minute.That makes you 131% faster than the national average.” So. Now I feel like an ass by saying so. So here are some things I suck at:
    I cannot ride a bike.
    I do not know how to sew.
    I can’t draw anything except stick figures, and they still look like someone was having a seizure while drawing. Okay.

    Thanks for sharing this, it was fun!!!
    Shannon @ It Starts At Midnight recently posted…Dear Santa, Leave the Books. Take the Cannoli.My Profile

    • Vlora


      Hahaha I love your list, but be confident in your assholeness, Shannon! I mean be confident that you can read so fast! :D No seriously, I guess a lot of it comes with practice too? Maybe I really did use to read faster back in school because I was reading so much at home? Who knows, but it’s awesome that you can read so fast! Yeah, I don’t know what it is about these tests, but I just love doing them. :D
      Vlora recently posted…Shoulderpads and InterventionsMy Profile

  5. Kristen Burns

    You innate knowledge about cheese, hahaha, I love it. Also, reading down the middle of the page does sound like a stupid time.

    I got around 300 for all of them doing my normal reading speed. The thing is, I just have zero desire to speed read. I like to enjoy what I’m reading, absorb the information, see the pictures in my mind, you know? Especially since nowadays I’m only reading things I want to read, not school-assigned textbooks. So I’m happy with my reading speed. Plus I do think it depends on the content you’re reading.

    Taking random tests online is fun though. Do you ever typing tests? Those are the best lol.
    Kristen Burns recently posted…Top Ten Tuesday: Top Ten Books I Wouldn’t Mind Santa Leaving Under My Tree This YearMy Profile

    • Vlora


      I’m fairly confident I could answer most questions about cheese with “put it on top of everything except for sweet stuff”. :D IDK Cait said she really does do that reading down the middle thing! I can’t even comprehend how that would possibly work, but hey I’m ready to learn something new. I wish I could speed read university texts and normal read everything else. :D I don’t always need to read speedily either, but it would certainly help with the fact that I want to read ALL OF THE BOOKS ALWAYS. It DEFINITELY depends on the content! I think a huge part of why I read books so slowly is that I just stop every second sentence because my thoughts wander off like it’s their job! Oooooh no, I haven’t done a typing test! I feel like I can actually type quite fast, but you know what I’m going to go off and do now. :D
      Vlora recently posted…Shoulderpads and InterventionsMy Profile

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